Ah, to contemplate the perfect lube... Where to begin? Personal lubricants are just that - personal. It's a very subjective quest.
What I look for in my lubricants is a very slick consistency with the ability to last a long, long time. I know that my mouth will encounter it at some point, even if it's only because I've put my hand around my partners neck and then kissed that spot 20 minutes later, so I'd like something that tastes as neutral as possible. Of course I don't want any irritation for my partners or myself and I'd like an easy clean up as well.
Creative Lube Substitutes
When I was 17, I took my first class in Human Sexuality at my local junior college. It was the early 80's and the only lube that was widely available commercially was KY Jelly. KY Jelly was never designed to be a personal lubricant; it was designed to be a medical lubricant. It was designed to put an object (finger or speculum) in a body cavity and then remove. With the friction of sex, KY got gummy fast. My sex education teacher recommended Albolene makeup remover. Albolene was, and is, a petroleum based product (not suitable for use with condoms). It's a solid, but upon contact with body heat it melts at which point it has a great slick satiny consistency and stays that way. Mainly gay men knew about Albolene, just like they knew about Crisco.
So why Crisco? Crisco and other lards create a lubricant that adheres to rectal walls. It cushions the friction and it stays slippery. Unfortunately it also makes your sheets rancid smelling and introduces some weird fats into your vagina and given the container and how you extract the lube it's easy to introduce contaminants. Still, as lubricants go, it is widely available and some still think it's one of the best. A lot of water based gels try to recreate the essential Crisco features - viscosity and staying power. I'm cool enough to know about Crisco... but I'm not cool enough to have ever used it - nor do I have any interest in it.
Let's Talk Silicone
My lube needs are complex. The body is a wonderful playground and I enjoy all the rides. Given all the options for personal lubricants in the market today - the oils, the water-base, the creamy hybrids (Liquid Silk and Good Vibrations Cream) and the silicones - if I had only one choice, that choice will be silicone.
Dimethicone, dimethiconal and cyclomenthicone are silicone liquids - combined together they become silicone lubricant. The primary difference between these three ingredients and all the water-based chemicals (such as glycerin, parabens, propylene glycol, sorbitol, etc.) is that all the silicone is basically inert. There are no topical body reactions to pure silicone lube. There are no irritations, no allergens and no microbes that can attach to the molecules and grow bacteria.
Unlike water based lubes that get absorbed or gummy, silicone lubricant stays slick and smooth. You don't need to apply as much lube when you're using silicone, nor do you have to reapply as often. Silicone is the lube that keeps going and going and going.
Are All Silicone Lubes the Same?
Health wise, as long as there are no additives, the answer is yes. But the viscosity of silicone lubricant, the thickness, changes from product to product. Dimethicone is much denser than the other two silicones - it's also more expensive as a raw ingredient. Silicone lubricants cost more because of the cost of these special liquids. But the premium grade ones such as Pjur (which have dimethicone listed first on their ingredients) have a much more velvety finish than your other, more common silicones such as Wet Platinum and ID Millennium. If you do a rub test between your thumb and forefingers you can feel the subtleties. I am a connoisseur - I love the richness of these premium lubes.
Even with the premium, more viscous silicones, their application is much more fluid than gels made for anal sex. Silicone is runny; can silicone lubricant really be safe for anal play? No one doubts the adhering of silicone to rectal walls, but what about the cushioning ability? Silicone molecules have a spherical shape. These microscopic spheres roll over each other like ball bearings. The cushion is there - it's just very different from water-based ingredients or fatty oils. Using silicone lubricants anally, the reapplication isn't as pressing an issue. It's one less thing you have to concern yourself with.
So What's the Downside of Silicone Lubricant?
Other than many silicone and silicone blend toys including your cyberskin™ types are ruined by silicone lube bonding to them, the real downside is how difficult they are to wash off, especially off linens. Silicone is not water soluble. It won't just wash off. Sheets are gonna get accidental drips, even using a towel. After using soap there will be a film of oil that remains even on you, until it is eliminated by your body. As it is inert- this is perfectly safe.
Silicone Safety and Everyday Use
How can silicone be so safe when leaking silicone breast implants can be fatal? Let me explain what happens regarding implants. Theoretically, silicone breast implants should be safe because the silicone encapsulated in the breast form is inert, right? Even when leaking they shouldn't interfere with any chemistry. Here's what no one counted on... this loose silicone in your blood system, while inert, is still a foreign body. It isn't absorbed into your blood like saline. Your white blood cells recognize the silicone and try to fight this invader. If the silicone adheres to a bone; your white blood cells attack the bone. Silicone lube never hits your bloodstream. It's in your digestive tract and protected by skin no matter which orifice you put it in - even if you swallow a little.
The medical world uses the ingredients in silicone lube everyday. Silicone is used to coat hypodermic needles so that the needle slides easier into the skin, with less stress on the patient. Fertility clinics use silicone lube throughout the insemination process because it doesn't interfere with the sperm or the eggs and the uterus' health.
With the aging of America, more women have to use personal lubricant than ever before. At menopause glands no longer produce as much moisture around the labia or inside the vaginal canal. Natural secretions aren't just for sex. Natural secretions also make mundane acts where your labia rub together, such as walking, comfortable. Silicone lubricant is perfect for moisturizing. You use a skin lotion on your face to hinder the aging process; use a little silicone lubricant on your lower lips for everyday revitalization and a sexy feeling glide.
The safety issues alone would make silicone lubricant my favorite, but here are even more reasons that help make it, hands down, my favorite.
I have a 16 oz bottle of silicone lube in my shower to shave with. It keeps my razor sharper longer plus it's the best shaving lotion I've ever used. It's totally safe to use on intimate areas and my legs are moisturized in one easy step. My lube acts as a very inexpensive hair shine product and keeps the frizzies away. The same ingredients sell in a bottle at my salon for premium price - silicone lubes at a sex toy store is a steal. It also shines my latex fetish-ware to a high polish.
Now, since we're cozy in bed... my shoulders have been killing me. Can you rub them with a little silicone lube/silicone massage oil? Ah, that feels so much better.
First published in Good Vibrations Online Magazine
Metis Black is the Founder and President of Tantus, Inc. The realization of her sex toy manufacturing company in 1997 helped to change the profile of sexuality products by mainstreaming silicone products and educating the industry on material safety and sexuality.
Metis' success has brought her accolades inside and outside of her industry. Her articles on material safety standards in sexual products and the chemistry of personal products such as lubricants have been widely published. Some of her publishing credits include American Journal of Sexuality Education, Good Vibrations Online Magazine, On Our Backs, Adult Novelty Business, XBiz, and The Free Speech Coalition. In 2015, she was also elected onto the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance's Board of Directors.
Over the last decade and a half, Metis has proven to be a champion for sex educators and a mentor to other small business owners.